By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Raw on the USA Network
Aired live on March 19, 2018 from Dallas, Texas at American Airlines Center
[Hour One] Kurt Angle’s music played and he made his entrance. The broadcast team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves, and Jonathan Coachman checked in and then ring announcer JoJo introduced him. Cole noted that there were 16,172 fans in the sold out venue.
Angle said he had to start out with bad news. The crowd grumbled. Angle said Roman Reigns’ suspension was still in effect. There were some cheers. Angle said Brock Lesnar had not arrived at the building, but Vince McMahon assured him that Lesnar would appear. Angle shifted the focus to Braun Stromwan winning the tag team battle royal to earn a Raw Tag Title shot at WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns walked through the crowd and to the ring minus any entrance music. Angle questioned what Reigns was doing and noted that he was trespassing since he was suspended. “Who cares?” Reigns asked. He said Lesnar didn’t appear the last three weeks and someone had to represent the WrestleMania main event.
Angle said Lesnar would appear. Reigns asked where he was. Angle said he was told that Lesnar was running a little bit late. Angle said if Reigns wants to talk about it then he’d have to do it outside the building because he was suspended. Reigns said he was suspended for telling the truth. Angle said Reigns just needed to wait three weeks to get his hands on Lesnar.
Reigns said he understood but he didn’t care. Reigns said he was in Dallas and made a lot of memories there and wouldn’t leave until he made another one. Reigns told Angle to go backstage and make it clear that he wasn’t leaving the ring until he faced Lesnar. Angle left the ring and headed backstage. Reigns set up a chair in the ring and sat down.
Three men in U.S. Marshall t-shirts and tactical vests headed to the ring. One of the man read Reigns his rights off a card on his badge. Another one of the men handcuffed Reigns with his hands in front of him. Reigns took offense when the man touched him while trying to lead him out of the ring. Once they got physical, Reigns fought back and worked them over despite being handcuffed.
Brock Lesnar’s music played and he rushed to the ring with Paul Heyman carrying the belt behind him. Lesnar entered the ring and gave Reigns a German suplex. Lesnar picked up the chair and struck Reigns with it several times while Heyman stood at ringside holding up the WWE Universal Championship. Lesnar gave Reigns another German suplex. Cole called it a street mugging and added that Reigns picked his spot.
Lesnar picked up Reigns and gave him another German suplex. Lesnar eventually hit him with two more chair shots and then jawed at him off mic before leaving the ring to boos. Lesnar removed his shirt and returned to the ring and hit Reigns with more chair shots and another German suplex. “The most decorated combat athlete in the world,” Cole said. “The Universal Champion has to resort to this?”
Lesnar went to ringside and put his title belt over his shoulder, then returned to the ring again. Lesnar hoisted up Reigns and gave him an F5, which drew some cheers. Lesnar let out a primal scream and drew more boos than cheers. Lesnar went back to ringside and headed up the ramp. EMTs walked by Lesnar and Heyman and ended up placing him on a board in the ring and eventually strapping him onto a stretcher.
Lesnar’s music played and he returned to ringside and shoved the stretcher and Reigns over. Lesnar smiled and then jawed at Reigns again. The broadcast team said someone had to stop this. Lesnar headed back up the ramp while referees and EMTs checked on Reigns at ringside… [C]
Powell’s POV: An excellent angle to open the show. You could see where it was going once Reigns was handcuffed, but the attack by Lesnar was over the top vicious and seemed to turn some in the live crowd against him. Here’s hoping they come up with a reason why Seth Rollins didn’t save his buddy because it did seem odd that the broadcast team was calling for help and he never came out.
An ad for NXT hyped the return of Ember Moon… The broadcast team recapped the opening segment…
A shot aired of EMTs stretchering Reigns into an ambulance. Coachman said it was the most brutal attack they’d seen in a long time. Graves spoke about how it shows the lengths that Lesnar will go to to keep his title at WrestleMania. Cole set up a video package on Alexa Bliss and Asuka… Alexa Bliss and Mickie James made their entrance heading into a break… [C]
Bliss and James stood in the ring and were booed. Bliss said the fans were right. She said she said some things about Nia Jax that were hurtful and wrong, but she and James were just joking around. She teased apologizing and then said she should have said it sooner. Bliss said she didn’t feel an ounce of remorse. She said Nia Jax was humiliated in front of the world and she loved every second of it. She said she never liked Jax and just used her. She said now that it’s behind her she can end Asuka’s unbeaten streak. Asuka made her entrance… [C]
Powell’s POV: The Bliss character is suddenly bold despite the fact that she doesn’t have an opponent at WrestleMania. It always seemed like she was friendly with Jax in hopes that she could avoid facing her in a singles match, so this is a bit contradictory, but her mic work is good and it should go a long way toward getting Jax over as a babyface. Bliss and James are the new mean girls. James even changed her look and is full fledged heel despite not really having an actual turn.
1. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss (w/Mickie James) vs. Asuka in a non-title match. The match was joined in progress. Bliss dumped Asuka to ringside heading into a break. [C] Asuka applied an ankle lock. Bliss eventually reached the ropes to break it. Bliss sold on the floor and was helped away by James as the referee counted her out…
Asuka defeated Alexa Bliss via count-out in a non-title match in 12:00.
After the match, Nia Jax ran out and attacked Bliss, who was suddenly able to run despite her “injury”. James went after Jax from behind. Jax tossed James into the side of the ring, and Bliss was able to escape Jax through the crowd. Jax eventually ran after Bliss and chased her to the back…
Cole hyped John Cena wanting answers from Undertaker, and Graves hyped Braun Strowman and an update on the tag title situation for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: The idea of joining an Asuka match in progress strikes me as counterproductive. WWE has established Asuka as being dominant to the point that you’d think they would avoid doing this because they created the perception that her matches can end at any time. Anyway, Jax going after Bliss seemed to be over with the live crowd. Hopefully they don’t have Jax get her hands on Bliss until WrestleMania. By the way, where’s the in-show hype for the Ultimate Deletion?
A recap aired of Braun Strowman winning the tag team battle royal last week…
[Hour Two] Backstage, Bliss told Angle that Jax should be arrested. Angle said the Raw Women’s Champion should be a role model, not a bully. Angle announced Bliss vs. Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania. Bliss looked fearful…
Powell’s POV: Here’s hoping the match sticks. I have been leaving the door open for Sasha Banks and Bayley to be added, but I’m happy they appear to be going with singles matches for both women’s championships.
Braun Strowman made his entrance as the broadcast team noted that Angle ruled prior to Raw that he must find a tag partner in order to challenge for the Raw Tag Titles at WrestleMania. Strowman said he doesn’t think he needs a tag partner and knows he could win the tag titles by himself.
Sheamus and Cesaro’s music interrupted Strowman. Sheamus said he was out of his mind if he thought he could beat the two of them by himself. Cesaro ran through how long it takes tag wrestlers to form chemistry. He said they have to ride together, eat together, and sleep together. The last part got the expected reaction from Strowman and the crowd. Sheamus said he meant tag partners have to “room together”.
Strowman interrupted the duo as they tried to say their catchphrase. Sheamus said he and Cesaro would make Brock Lesnar’s beating of Roman Reigns look tame. Strowman informed them that Angle gave him a match against one of them. He asked which man wanted to get “these hands.” Both men teased entering the ring, but Sheamus turned and headed back to ringside…
2. Braun Strowman vs. Cesaro (w/Sheamus). Strowman tossed Cesaro to ringside during the first minute of the match and they went to break. [C] Strowman took out Sheamus on the floor by charging at him after he’d interfered a couple of times. Strowman put Cesaro away with a running powerslam a short time later…
Braun Strowman beat Cesaro in 8:40.
The broadcast team hyped John Cena seeking an answer to his challenge of Undertaker. They also hyped Ultimate Deletion for later in the show…
Footage aired from inside Matt Hardy’s home. Hardy spoke as his wife Queen Rebecca played the piano while Lord Wolfgang was on her back. King Maxel showed up. Senor Benjamin stood by. Hardy told Vanguard 1 (his drone) to scan the property nonstop. Hardy told Benjamin to prepare the battlefield for annihilation… [C]
Powell’s POV: The idea is that Strowman can select a partner of his choosing, according to the broadcast team. It will be interesting to see whether they announce it in advance or if they have someone in mind as a mystery partner. Elias has been a popular pick. Could this be a spot for Rey Mysterio? Meanwhile, I’m really looking forward to the return of the Broken Brilliance rather than the half-assed feud that Hardy and Bray Wyatt have had thus far.
An ad for Smackdown questioned whether Daniel Bryan can gain control of Smackdown Live…
3. “The Revival” Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder vs. Titus O’Neil and Apollo (w/Dana Brooke). The bell rang coming out of commercial and neither team received a televised entrance. Wilder made a blind tag late and then he and Dawson hit the Shatter Machine on Apollo for the win…
The Revival beat Titus O’Neil and Apollo in 3:10.
After the match, Charly Caruso entered the ring and asked the Revival what their path would be to WrestleMania now that Braun Strowman won the tag team battle royal. Dawson said they would be the first tag team to ever win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania…
Powell’s POV: Part of me was waiting for Caruso to inform the duo that The Dre wasn’t even announced for WrestleMania, but I guess this qualifies as the announcement.
Cole set up the Hall of Fame video for Mark Henry… The broadcast team hyped a women’s tag match for after the break… [C] A video aired on WWE women past and present and noted that the company is celebrating women’s history month. The broadcast team hyped the WWE 24 special on the women’s division that will air on WWE Network after Raw…
Bayley made her entrance for a tag match with Sasha Banks against Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Banks’s music played and she came out with a mic in hand and said she wanted to fix whatever was happening between her and Bayley. She said it was every woman for herself at Elimination Chamber. The crowd gave Banks the “What?” treatment as she recalled Bayley walking out on her twice. She said Bayley is her sister and she forgives her. Banks offered Bayley a handshake.
Bayley said she was angry and acted impulsively the night after Elimination Chamber. She said she actually helped her win the next week, but then she took off right after the match because she can’t get over what Banks did to her at Elimination Chamber. Bayley said it’s not about what she did, it’s about how she did it.
Bayley said Banks does what she has to do to win her matches, but the look on her face and her smirk after she kicked her down the pod eats at her core. Bayley said she can’t get the image out of her head. “You’re supposed to be my best friend, so why was knocking me down so easy like it meant nothing?” Bayley asked. Absolution’s music played before Banks could respond. Paige said her women would show whiney little girls how real women settle a score…
4. Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville (w/Paige). Absolution cleared the ring early in the match heading into a break. [C] Late in the match, Bayley had Deville pinned via backslide, but the referee was cuagh tup with Banks and Rose. Bayley blamed Banks and they bickered. Deville knocked Bayley into Banks and then delivered a high kick to Bayley’s head and pinned her…
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville beat Sasha Banks and Bayley in 10:00.
Graves hyped the John Cena segment for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: Cole openly questioned if Banks and Bayley will be in the women’s battle royal, so it looks like that’s where this storyline will play out. At this point, they both have valid criticisms of the other and it’s actually making them both less likable.
[Hour Three] John Cena made his entrance and recalled issuing his challenging to Undertaker last week. He said we would all find out Undertaker’s response tonight. He said he can’t believe how long Taker has been in hiding. He said Taker thinks he no longer belongs in WWE. Cena said that’s ridiculous and as long as there is a WWE then the name Undertaker has meaning.
Cena hyped up the crowd for Undertaker’s response and then said it was nothing. “Not a yes, not a no, nothing,” Cena said. “And that is the biggest mistake that Undertaker has ever made.” Cena said it’s disrespectful to him and disrespectful to the fans. Cena said Undertaker should just say he’s retired if that’s the case, but otherwise he should give the world what they want to see.
Cena said Undertaker sits and drowns in his insecurities. “You are not the god that they made you, you are the man that you’ve allowed yourself to become,” Cena said. “And that man, Undertaker, is a coward.” Cena looked into the camera and said, “Undertaker is a coward.” Cena said he doesn’t even need a yes or no. He’d settle for a casket or the smoke or whatever he does.
“Be a man, be the Undertaker, do something,” said Cena. The fans responded by chanting “Do something.” Cena said this is the moment that Taker let everyone down who believed in him. “You are not a god and right now you should barely be able to call yourself a man,” said Cena.
Kane’s music played and he made his entrance. Cena said Kane was sent by Undertaker to give them all the response they deserve. Cena asked Kane if it was yes or no and then stuck the microphone in his face. Kane grabbed Cena by the throat and chokeslammed him. Coachman questioned if that was a yes or a no. Cole wondered if it was Kane stepping up to face Cena at WrestleMania…
Powell’s POV: A good segment. Cena was over the top with his promo to start with, but he hit on the key points that I’m sure we’ll be hearing repeatedly in video packages for the next few weeks. The segment could have used a commercial break to give it a chance to breathe rather than immediately being followed by a recap video.
The broadcast team set up a video that recapped the opening segment with Reigns and Lesnar. Cole said Reigns was hospitalized and would not be released tonight. He then went right into hyping Lesnar vs. Reigns for WrestleMania as if it was a foregone conclusion. Coachman hyped a look at Ronda Rousey’s journey to WrestleMania later in the show. Graves hyped the Ultimate Deletion for later in the show as well…
The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel made their entrance. Cole hyped the trio facing The Balor Club “for the first time ever”… [C] A Dallas Cowboys player was shown in the crowd. They only showed one player, but the graphic listed “Dallas Cowboys”…
Footage aired of Matt Hardy seeking advice from his giraffe George Washington…
The Miz delivered an in-ring promo while Dallas and Axel stood by. Miz griped that he gets no respect. He complained that he wasn’t even on the WrestleMania magazine despite the fact that he’s about to become the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion in history. He also complained that he doesn’t have to be pinned or submit to lose his title at WrestleMania.
Miz said he exposed Finn Balor and Seth Rollins as liars last week while Dallas and Axel were too busy doing something else. He said the nudge he gave them last week will turn into a big push for Tyler Black and Prince “Nevitt” when he sends them down to the bingo hall so they can too sweet all the independent fans. His rant was interrupted by Balor Club’s entrances. Seth Rollins made his entrance and headed toward the broadcast table… [C]
Powell’s POV: For those who only follow WWE, Balor worked as Prince Devitt and Rollins worked as Tyler Black prior to signing with WWE. It looked like Miz botched the Devitt name accidentally, but it works either way since that will get under the skin of longtime Balor fans.
5. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson vs. The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel. Rollins sat in on commentary for the match. The match was joined in progress. The Miz DDT’d Anderson heading into a break. [C] Late in the match, Miz and Axel collided and then Balor rolled up Miz and pinned him to win the match.
Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson defeated The Miz, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel.
After the match, Miz and company attacked the three babyfaces. Miz wanted to hit his finisher on Balor, but Rollins ran to the ring and made the save. Rollins cleared the cronies and hit the Stomp on Miz, then jawed off-mic with Balor and they both looked at the WrestleMania sign…
Another Hardy teaser aired with his boat Skarsgard at the Lake of Reincarnation… Cole hyped a Ronda Rousey video for after the break… [C]
Powell’s POV: So Rollins saves one of his WrestleMania opponents, but not his buddy Reigns earlier in the show. Strange. The broadcast team threw all sorts of questions at Rollins, but the fact that he never saved Reigns didn’t come up. Why not cover that base by simply stating that he was late arriving to the building?
Graves hyped John Cena vs. Kane for next week’s Raw in Cleveland. Cole transitioned to the Rousey video…
The video featured Kurt Angle saying that Rousey is tough, intense, and a badass. She was sitting next to him and said it’s damn true. She spoke about her dad telling her to be the best at what she does. She spoke about living in her car and deciding that she was going to break a lot of arms and at least that way she would feed her dogs. She said she’s not arrogant, she just knows she’s the best. She questioned if that makes her a bitch because she’s a woman. She said she believed the was the best and she was.
Rousey said she walked away from her last fight thinking God hates her. She said she had nothing left in her. She got emotional as she spoke about her husband being amazing. She said she went through a tough time and he told her that she was more than just a fighter. “I’m not afraid to care anymore,” she said. She said everything led to this and she didn’t even realize she was on this path. She said WWE is a dream come true. Angle said all eyes will be on her in their match because whether fans love her or hate her will want to see her succeed or fail. She said it’s a lot of pressure, but it brings out the best in her. She said she thought UFC was all she ever cared about, but things happen and now this is all she cares about. She said she was always meant to be on this stage and was always meant to be at WrestleMania… Cole hyped the mixed tag match for WrestleMania…
Ultimate Deletion time. Bray Wyatt arrived at the gates of the Hardy Compound and was greeted by Vanguard 1. The Hardy projection shot out of Vanguard 1 and welcomed Wyatt to his compound at his deletion. Reby Hardy played a piano next to a ring that was set up outdoors. Hardy stood in the ring and once Wyatt arrived he said, “Bray Wyatt, I knew you’d come”… [C]
The broadcast team set up the Ultimate Deletion. Cole said it was obnoxious and surreal. Graves scolded him and said it was the culmination of the Great War. Cole said he was sorry for what fans were about to watch…
[Overrun] The WWE referee called for the bell. Hardy and Wyatt circled around one another in the ring while laughing. Hardy said the time for laughing was over. Vanguard 1 was shown flying around the ring as Hardy and Wyatt fought. Wyatt had Hardy down at one point and yelled, “I’m a god!” He asked where his manners were and said he forgot to give Matt his housewarming gift. Wyatt pulled a chair out from underneath the ring.
Hardy called for Vanguard to initiate. Wyatt asked what he was initiating. A bunch of fireworks shot off around the ring and then Hardy regained offensive control and struck Wyatt with a chair. They fought outside the ring and a Vanguard 1 graphic listed Dilapidated City. Hardy asked Wyatt if the shack behind him reminded him of anything. Wyatt knelt down and laughed as old footage aired of him in his rocking chair inside a shack. Hardy told him to wake up and they fought with a kendo stick.
Wyatt screamed and we could apparently see his flashbacks to a burning shack. Wyatt searched for Hardy. The graphic read “Land of Obsolete Men” as they went to the Hardy symbol graveyard(?). Hardy caught up to Wyatt and worked him over before running him into the door of giant shed or garage area, which contains a wrestling ring. The graphic read “Dome of Deletion” as they entered and there was a white piano, a ladder, and a riding lawnmower. Hardy worked over Wyatt with the ladder.
Hardy spoke to his “chair of wheels” and “mower of lawns.” Hardy got on the lawnmower and drove it toward Wyatt, who struck the crab pose and then stood up and smiled. Wyatt took control of the fight and threw Hardy inside the ring. Wyatt dragged Hardy out of the dome and Vanguard 1 showed him carrying Hardy toward the Lake of Reincarnation. Wyatt set up for his finisher near Skarsgard, but gave it up and instead grabbed Vanguard 1. He told Vanguard 1 he would deal with him later and let him go.
Wyatt tipped over Skarsgard the boat expecting to find Hardy, but he instead found Senor Benjamin, who said he’s got the hole world in his hands. Brother Nero (Jeff Hardy) popped up next to Wyatt and sang the same thing. Matt hit Wyatt with a Twist of Fate and pinned him to win the, um, match.
Wyatt got up and said it’ wasn’t over. Hardy shoved Wyatt into the Lake of Reincarnation. Hardy called for Benjamin and told him to retrieve Wyatt’s carcass. After searching for a matter of seconds, Benjamin declared that Wyatt’s carcass was not there. Hardy declared the Great War as being over and said Wyatt had been deleted. Hardy did the delete gesture a few times to close the show…
Powell’s POV: It was a fun throwback for fans who remember the Broken Universe from TNA fondly, but this was not the best of the various trips to the Hardy Compound that we’ve seen. It was light on cameos and I can’t help but feel as though they would have been better off not showing any of Matt’s family members or throwback things like Vanguard 1 and Skarsgard until the video actually aired because then they also would have felt like fun surprises rather than expected appearances. I’m happy we finally got to see this in WWE, but I don’t expect this to generate the same level of buzz with new viewers that the first version did in TNA. By the way, they did not show this in the arena to the live crowd. They reportedly went with a Braun Strowman vs. Elias match instead.
Overall, Raw wasn’t as strong as last week, though the build to WrestleMania has been well done thus far. The show peaked with the excellent angle that opened the show. It was disappointing that we didn’t see Rousey appear again despite the fact that she was advertising on the WWE and arena website. I will have much more to say about the show in my members’ exclusive audio review later tonight.
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